Frances Lea, a Screen Star of Tomorrow, presented the world premiere of her low-budget feature Strawberry Fields at the LFF.

Christine Bottomley, Frances Lea and Emun Elliott at the Strawberry Fields premiere

Christine Bottomley, Frances Lea and Emun Elliott at the Strawberry Fields premiere

Screen was on hand last night as one of our 2011 Stars of Tomorrow, Frances Lea, presented the world premiere of her new feature Strawberry Fields at the BFI London Film Festival.

Sadly, I had to dash home before the after-screening party, but my sources tell me that strawberry beer was served, in keeping with the theme.

The story is about a woman who tries to escape her family life by working on a fruitpicking farm in Kent; she meets a man who shakes up her world, but then her unstable sister comes back into the mix. Anna Madeley and Christine Bottomley play sisters Gillian and Emily, and Emun Elliott (also a Screen Star of Tomorrow, class of 2009) plays the charmismatic but troubled Kev.

Lea noted that the film (she wrote the script with Judith Johnson) was partially inspired by her days as a fruitpicker in Kent (where the film is set) and also by themes explored in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire.

“Female sexuality is kind of played out in the film,” Lea said during the Q&A. “It’s quite messy and complex, I was wanting to show women in that light, not in a neat way.”

Actress Bottomley noted that for her the story is ultimately about the sisters grappling for power. “They’re two people who want to have control over one another,” she said.

With a lower budget film, “you make sure you’re all in it for the same reasons,” added Elliott (who can also be seen in Game of Thrones and the forthcoming Prometheus). “We all got there and went for it. In the least wanky way of saying it, we really lived it for about three weeks out in Kent. I had a blast.”

When challenged by an audience member who thought that strawberry pickers would be too exhausted to get up to the post-work hijinks shown in the film, Lea responded: “[That work] is exhausting and penniless and very difficult. But I do remember having some downtime. It’s called artistic license.”

The film was made for about £100,000 as part of Film London’s Microwave scheme. “It was very challenging but we had a lot of support from people, which can make up for the money…[The scheme] gives you a lot of creative freedom. We can go there with these characters and do something a little different.”

Soda Pictures will release the film through its New British Cinema Quarterly series in 2012.

You can also catch Lea as part of Women in Film and TV’s panel at the LFF, at 4pm on Sunday at the BFI Southbank Gallery, which also features Carol Morley (Dreams of a Life), Tinge Krishnan (Junkhearts), Dictynna Hood (Wreckers) and Alexandra McGuinness (Lotus Eaters).

Frances Lea at LFF

Frances Lea at LFF